ENVIRONMENT Minister Edwin Boots has vowed that two illegal dumping sites in north Belfast will be “robustly investigated”.

Clearance has begun at the two sites following a protest by residents in the area on Monday.

Staff from the NI Environment Agency (NIEA) are clearing one site near the junction of Hillview Road/Crumlin Road.

A second site at Edenderry Industrial Estate is being cleared by the estate owner.

Mr Poots told the Stormont Assembly that NIEA’s enforcement branch would be tasked with carrying out the investigation, and bringing forward any recommendations to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

“It will be robustly investigated and if the appropriate information comes forward that will be taken to court,” he said.

Used mattresses, medical equipment, food waste and gas bottles are just some of the waste piled up at the sites.

Some residents had to leave their homes over flies and rat infestation.

Mr Poots said he was made aware of the matter on Saturday and had been working with officials to get the waste removed.

He said it would be up to Belfast City Council to deal with a “vermin problem” at the sites and that the council was “putting full baiting down”.

The minister said he had been given “assurances” that all of the residual waste – attracting vermin and flies – would be removed by the end of the week.

“Some of the material which isn’t that type may take a bit longer to be removed,” he said.

“All of that residual waste will be removed by the end of this week, but I hope it will be done a lot quicker.”

The minister also warned councils that had not reopened recycling centres yet due to the Covid-19 lockdown to “get your act together”.

“Get the recycling centres open and provide the service you’re being paid to provide,” added Mr Poots.

DUP councillor Brian Kingston said he was “relieved” to see progress made on clearing the two sites.

He said NIEA staff had been at the site beside the car wash since early on Monday and would have it cleared by the end of the week.

Mr Kingston said he understood that the estate owner would clear the warehouse within a week.

He commended residents for speaking up but said that questions must be asked as to how the warehouse had been “filled irresponsibly with waste”.

The agency said it was investigating both sites.

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